Ayahuasca Addiction Treatment and Rehab
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Last Updated - 12/28/2022View our editorial policy
- Mounting research supports a potential role for ayahuasca as a valuable tool for the treatment of substance abuse or mental health disorders in the future
- Ayahuasca’s “trip” can last for hours and be uncomfortable and frightening
- Addiction is often associated with underlying mental health issues
- Rehab facilities that can evaluate whether a dual diagnosis is appropriate often give clients the most successful outcomes
Ayahuasca does not cause addiction, but its use can indicate the presence of a substance use disorder, especially if the drug is used to address a mental health disorder.
Ayahuasca (sometimes known as iowaska) has been used for centuries in shamanic ceremonies in the Amazon basin. It has recently become a popular recreational drug in the United States. Although ayahuasca tea is illegal, it has been the focus of substantial research at leading research universities and medical schools across the country. Mounting evidence suggests that ayahuasca has a low risk for abuse and addiction, therefore ayahuasca drug rehab is unlikely to provide a significant benefit to anyone. However, ayahuasca use may coincide with other substance use disorders, so addiction treatment may still be appropriate in some cases.
Ayahuasca Addiction Treatment Options
In light of substantial evidence indicating that ayahuasca does not lead to dependency or addiction, ayahuasca drug treatment will generally be unnecessary. Preliminary data suggests that ayahuasca treatment for other substance use and mental health disorders may be on the horizon. However, for those who are concerned that they or a loved one is struggling with ayahuasca dependency, rehabilitation facilities can provide treatment:
- Detox: The effects of ayahuasca lasts between four to six hours, during which time the active components are metabolized. Intoxication and detoxification essentially occur simultaneously. Many people report that the ayahuasca “trip” is uncomfortable or produces upsetting hallucinations.
- Residential rehab: Because ayahuasca has not been found to cause dependency, addiction or withdrawal symptoms, residential ayahuasca addiction treatment is likely unnecessary. However, residential treatment can provide people who use ayahuasca to mask other substance use or mental health disorders with support and guidance.
- Outpatient rehab: As with residential rehab, outpatient rehab is unlikely to be necessary for ayahuasca drug treatment. However, for polysubstance users (i.e., ayahuasca in combination with addictive drugs), outpatient rehab can address other concerns that someone who has used ayahuasca may have.
- Dual diagnosis rehab: A common component of substance use disorder (SUD) is underlying mental health issues. Many people who struggle with SUD use drugs in an attempt to cope with a mental disorder. Unfortunately, drug use is a dangerous and ineffective way to deal with mental health concerns. Multidisciplinary teams at quality rehab facilities can evaluate whether a dual diagnosis is appropriate.
- Aftercare and Sober Living: A major component in recovering from SUD is a lifelong commitment to sober living. Aftercare programs offer people in recovery the chance to develop strong social networks in safe places, often under the guidance of therapists or clinicians. Aftercare also provides a way for people in recovery to learn how to avoid triggers and replace substance use with positive, healthy activities.
How Long Does Ayahuasca Drug Rehab Take?
Because ayahuasca does not meet clinical requirements for dependency or addiction, rehab for ayahuasca itself is unlikely to deliver substantial benefits. In cases where individuals co-use ayahuasca with drugs that do meet clinical addiction requirements (e.g., alcohol, cocaine, heroin, opioids, etc.), rehab may be appropriate. In that case, the rehab process will be dependent on the drug of choice and length of use.
Ayahuasca Addiction Treatment Therapies
Common therapeutic approaches for the treatment of substance use disorder include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of psychotherapy that has proven to be an effective way to overcome dependency and addiction for many people. The goal of CBT is to identify negative or incorrect thought processes and replace them with positive, helpful ones.
- Motivational interviewing: In a motivational interviewing session, the therapist does not actively guide the session but acts more like a sounding board for the client, indirectly leading the client to insights about their substance use and providing feedback and support. A key component of motivational interviewing is that it gives the person struggling with substance use or mental health disorders the chance to personally identify their desire to change, what the change would look like and the effects that the change would have on their lives.
- Individual therapy: Individual therapy is highly tailored to the needs of the client. These sessions allow the therapist and client to work together to identify goals and develop tools to manage recovery.
- Group therapy: In a group therapy session, clients who are in recovery are given the opportunity to interact with their peers in a structured environment. Group sessions, led by a therapist, are ways for people in recovery to learn from each other and offer support and guidance to one another. Some group sessions are family-oriented and give the client an opportunity to have mediated and productive conversations with significant others, parents, children and loved ones.
Choosing a Ayahuasca Rehab Center
Unlike many other hallucinogens, the psychoactive ingredient in ayahuasca (DMT) does not appear to induce tolerance or lead to dependence or addiction. Moreover, there is no withdrawal associated with ayahuasca, so the goal of clinically-assisted detox would be to manage the acute intoxication (four to six hours) following ayahuasca ingestion. Thus, ayahuasca is unlikely to be the primary reason why an individual would enter rehab.
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What to Expect When you go to Rehab
Ayahuasca use by itself is unlikely to preempt entry into a rehab program; however, underlying substance abuse or mental health issues, in conjunction with ayahuasca use, could lead to dependency or addiction issues that are best addressed with the help of professionals. The first step in any rehab program is an initial evaluation done with a licensed medical professional. The goal of the evaluation is to identify the degree of addiction and the most appropriate course of action to achieve the best outcome for the client.
Clients who need high levels of care or supervision will have the best results if they start in residential rehab followed by an intensive outpatient program that is gradually relaxed while the client establishes new, healthy routines and develops strategies to avoid triggers.
What Happens After Rehab?
Most people who are in recovery participate in aftercare programs that allow them to develop strong social support networks and maintain relationships with therapists and medical professionals who can continue to provide tools and techniques for overcoming temptation and avoiding setbacks. Addiction recovery typically requires constant maintenance, so it is important to find a rehab program that can address both immediate and long-term concerns.
How Rehab Helps
Many people who struggle with substance use or mental health disorders find rehab to be incredibly valuable. Addiction is a legitimate disease and does not reflect willpower or moral fortitude and, like any disease, medical intervention is often required. By coordinating with professionals at a quality rehab facility, clients can identify goals and expectations and develop plans that will maximize success. Rehab also gives people the opportunity to forge new relationships and develop social networks that are dedicated to supporting each other throughout the recovery process.
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Frecska, Ede; Bokor, Petra; Winkelman, Michael. “The Therapeutic Potentials of Ayahuasca: Possible Effects against Various Diseases of Civilization.” Frontiers in Pharmacology, March 2016. Accessed July 22, 2019
National Institute on Drug Abuse. “How Do Hallucinogens (LSD, Psilocybin, Peyote, DMT, and Ayahuasca) Affect the Brain and Body?” February 2015. Accessed on July 26, 2019.
McKenna, Dennis; Callaway, J.C.; Grob, Charles. “The Scientific Investigation of Ayahuasca: A Review of Past and Current Research.” The Heffter Review of Psychedelic Research, 1999. Accessed July 22, 2019.